Phil Donato accuses NSW government of pork barrelling Snowy sale funds

Orange MP Phil Donato
Orange MP Phil Donato

The NSW government’s $4.1 billion from the sale of it share of the Snowy Mountain Scheme will arrive just in time for pork barrelling ahead of the 2019 election, Phil Donato has said.

The Orange MP said people shouldn’t expect to see the funds being distributed until much closer to the election campaign, and even the he said people should be wary about whether it arrive.

Mr Donato said $4.1 billion, if used solely in regional NSW as promised by the state government, could make a lot of difference but he remains sceptical.

“I would question whether regional NSW will see every dollar. The National Party has a history of making promises and not keeping them," Mr Donato said.

“They made $300 million of promises in the lead up to the [Orange] byelection and they can’t even spend $1 million on a car park for Orange Hospital.”

Mr Donato compiled a wishlist for his electorate including flood proofing for the Newell Highway, more palliative care and improved road and rail links between the Central West and Sydney.

However he said he was worried about the initial transaction, where the Australian government bought NSW’s 58 per cent share in the Snowy Hydro Scheme for $4.1 billion and Victoria’s 29 per cent share for $2 billion.

“I think there are always concerns about the sale of state assets and my big concern is have the state government sold it too cheaply,” he said.

“There were reports the federal government was prepared to pay up to $8 billion and they only had to pay $6 billion so I have concerns that we didn’t get bang for our buck.”

Regional Nationals MPs have welcomed the injection of funds, although they didn’t say what projects they would like in their electorates. 

Member for Dubbo Troy Grant said he had “$4.2 billion worth of ideas”.

“We’ve had discussions within Nationals party room after we were given assurances every cent of that transaction would be spent in regional NSW,” Mr Grant said.

“We will consult with our communities and take that back to government and then structure that into a way to make sure every cent in the right places on the right projects for the right reasons.”

Bathurst MP Paul Toole described the the Snowy sale as a “once-in-a-generation fund”.

”I will be talking directly to the Premier, the Deputy Premier and consulting with the community to make sure the proceeds of this sale is invested in infrastructure that will improve the lives of people living in the Central West for generations to come,” he said.

“Snowy Hydro is an iconic project and a symbol of great achievement for people living in regional NSW and we will make sure we invest in projects that honour that legacy.”